To Win When Negotiating Watch the Hands

When you negotiate, do you consider the value your hands possess during the negotiation? What about the manner in which the other negotiator uses her hands, do you take that into consideration when you negotiate? During a negotiation, the hands and their placement convey an avalanche of nonverbal (body language) meanings, which gives insight into the direction of the negotiation. Consider the placement of hands in the following examples.

Hand(s) on Shoulder:

This occurs when one negotiator puts one or two hands on the other negotiator’s shoulder. It can be an attempt to covey a stronger position, or a greater degree of sincerity, by the negotiator displaying the act. Two hands on the shoulders sends more of a dominant message than one hand.

Steepled hands:

(Such as a church steeple) Conveys the thought of having superiority on the point being discussed. Notice when this maneuver occurs and you’ll gain insight into what the other negotiator is thinking about the point being discussed.

Hand(s) on hip:

This gesture conveys more of a defiant stance and conveys the thought that one may be in the process of ‘digging in their heals’ on a point being discussed.


This usually occurs when there’s a concern about one’s position or guilt about some aspect of the negotiation.

Hand rubbing chin:

This act conveys a person in thought mode.

Hand over mouth when talking:

The negotiator displaying this act is either unsure about what he is  saying, or he’s outright lying.

These are but a few of the nonverbal signals from which you can glean clues into the thoughts of the other negotiator. To increase your chances of having a ‘winning hand’ when negotiating, watch the placement of your hands and that of the other negotiator when you negotiate. By doing so, you’ll get ‘inside’ clues to the meanings of other nonverbal signals (body language) that are being sent and received. That additional insight will put you in a stronger negotiation position … and everything will be right with the world.

The Negotiation Tips Are …

  • Always observe the placement of someone’s hands when you negotiate. If you’re not sure of what you’re perceiving, look for a ‘cluster’ (more than one gesture) of hand signals to give you additional insight.
  • From the moment you enter into an environment in which you’ll be negotiating, pay close attention to how the other negotiator uses her hands. You’ll gain insight into what she’s thinking and the direction in which she’d like to take the negotiation.
  • In observing the other negotiator’s hands, when they’re open, if you can, give something, when they’re closed, be weary. The other negotiator will not be in a ‘giving’ mood, when his hands are closed. So, don’t ask for anything you want that’s important during those times.
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